• While telescopic material handlers have become a mainstay on most jobsites, straight-mast (also called vertical-mast) rough-terrain forklifts have been construction workhorses for many years and are still right for many applications, such as unloading equipment or placing materials onto a scaffold. Straight-mast lifts can cost as little as half the price of telescopic handlers. Telescopic handlers are more flexibile in "landing" a load in the proper location and in reaching over the debris that tends to accumulate next to a building under construction. But straight-mast lifts tend to be more durable and cost less to maintain than telescopics, because they are simpler and, therefore, fewer things can go wrong. To select the right vertical-mast forklift for your operations, first answer a few basic questions: How high do you need to lift?
  • How heavy will the load be?
  • How rough or muddy is your terrain?
  • What kind of materials will you be moving and how will they be packed?
  • How will you get the forklift to the jobsite?

Two types of masts are available: clear-view and free-lift. The more expensive free lift allows the forks to lift without increasing the height of the machine, which is beneficial when overhead clearance is tight, but provides limited visibility. A clear view mast, on the other hand, greatly increases the operator's visibility. But a clear-view mast has no free lift, so the masts and the forks go up together. No company has yet developed a clear-view free-lift mast. Masts higher than 10 feet have multiple stages that may require a lot of maintenance. Another option is tilting masts, which can tilt back to help stabilize loads or tilt forward to reduce clearance for transport and for moving the truck through doorways.Engine size is often based on capacity and lift. Cab design varies considerably. A good dealer network is an advantage when selecting a manufacturer. Warranties are also important to consider.A well-built, well-maintained forklift holds its value and can be used efficiently for 15 to 20 years. The article also defines some common terms and includes an extensive list of manufacturers.